The lifelong dream will become reality later this week for Hawaii’s Blaze Ka’ai Tom as the outfielder will open the 2021 Major League Baseball season on the opening day roster for the Oakland Athletics.
“Man, I was honestly more shocked than anything else. It was just kind of like one of those things that’s hard to process,” Tom told KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello. “This is something that I’ve been working for all my life. I talked about this with family and friends that I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player.”
The 26 year old who is one of four Hawaii born players and five with Hawai’i ties to start the year on MLB Opening Day rosters, spent the first five years of his pro career in the Cleveland Indians organization, was selected by Oakland in the Rule-5 Draft this past December earning him an opportunity to hit the field in MLB Spring Training with the club.
After missing the first two weeks of spring games due to a low-grade oblique strain, Tom quickly made up for lost time by hitting .321 with a home run and six RBIs in 28 at-bats. On Monday morning, Tom was notified by manager Bob Melvin that his years of hard work has paid off.
“When he pulled me aside and told me congratulations, you made the opening day roster, man, I was just shocked. I was so excited. I didn’t even know what to say so I just kept constantly telling him thank you and he kind of just reassured me that, hey man, don’t tell me thank you, all the work was on you,” said Ka’ai.
In five minor league seasons in the Indians organization, Tom hit .270 with 49 home runs and 58 stolen bases. Earning All-Star consideration in 2019 as he hit a combined .290 with 23 home runs, 27 doubles, and 10 triples between the AA and AAA levels. According to Tom, the grind doesn’t end because the long minor league bus rides have.
“I’m so excited. This is definitely like a huge hump that I finally got past. Now it’s what am I going to do to continue to be a big leaguer and that’s the biggest thing that a lot of people say. It’s already hard enough to become a big leaguer but once you get past that threshold and become a big leaguer, they say it’s harder to stay as a big leaguer because there are so many guys just like me and others that want to be a big leaguer as well.”
Tom and the Athletics will open the 2021 season with an eight game homestand against the Astros and Dodgers. The Houston series begins on Thursday. The club will open the year with 10 games in as many days, which creates an anticipated opportunity for the versatile outfielder who can play all three outfield positions to provide opportunities to contribute.
“I just have to really make sure that I’m doing what I need to do to stay healthy and stay in the field to begin with and also perform and help the ball club win. That’s the major goal,” added Tom. “I just can’t stress enough how excited I am for this opportunity. I’m just kind of speechless man, it’s just a huge excitement for me. Especially since I didn’t even have a 2020 season. I just spent the whole COVID and I wasn’t even at the alternate site and just missing basically the whole year of baseball, I’m so excited for this whole thing to happen to me right now.”